Review by Paula Farmer
A SEPARATION is an intense story of intimacy and infidelity as a young woman comes to terms with her husband’s cheating ways and the demise of their marriage. For some time they’ve unofficially separated, with no direction one way or the other in their relationship. No friends or family have been made aware of their separate lives. In effect, they have been living apart together. A situation that only seems to benefit Christopher while our unnamed narrator/protagonist languishes in limbo. Despite that, she is determined to call him out, proclaim her freedom and move on with her life, but just as she is determined to get answers and change their status, Christopher is nowhere to be found. He is supposedly on a business trip in Greece, but seems to be missing in action. Not knowing of their marital woes and worried since not having heard from Christopher in some time, his mother insists the wife go to Greece and check up on him.
__therefore, I would like to know, where exactly is my son? Immediately, my head began to throb. It had been a month since I had spoken to Christopher. Our last conversation had been on the telephone. Christopher had said that although we were clearly not going to be reconciled, he did not want to begin the process- he used that word, indicative of some continuous and ongoing thing, rather than a decisive and singular act and of course he was right, divorce was more organic, somehow more contingent than it initially appeared- of telling people.
Although she assumes that he is lost by design, she succumbs to her mother-in-law’s urgings and treks to his last known location to a lonely, little-known resort in Greece. Her journey there leads to a tragic revelation, but the trip serves more as a catalyst to her own personal journey of emotions and rediscovery of priorities. The book’s tone is somewhat distant and cold, and the story overall is undeniably bleak. Between that and other elements, such as a droning first person narration, an introspective somewhat victimized female protagonist, and a hint of mystery, THE SEPARATION begs for and deserves, to a certain extent, comparisons to Daphne Du Mauier’s REBECCA. While this story has REBECCA-esq qualities, it is not at that level of greatness. With REBECCA Du Mauier was at a writing peak, with series command of literary prose weaved into a fully realized mystery. Although Kitamura is not quite at that pitch, she does posses a distinct writing presence and promises to be an emerging talent to watch.
It’s the homestretch for summer before it’s back to a different pace in scheduling and lifestyle. Soon the days will be shorter, kids will be back in school and “summer Fridays” will a thing of the past. For most, this means so too will there be a change in reading habits. Although the acclaimed writer and bookstore owner, Ann Pachett, says that “Any book you take to the beach is a beach read,” many avid readers switch gears when it comes to seasonal “beach” reads. As such, I have what I call a short take on some recent books I’ve delved into that I think for various reasons will be perfect to take you through the last few weeks of summer ... or even an Indian summer, if we’re so lucky.
YOUNG JANE YOUNG by Gabrielle Zevin - from the fun writer who gave us THE STORIED LIFE OF A.J. FIKRY, comes a story about, Aviva, a young political intern in Florida who goes Monica Lewinsky on her congressional boss and blogs about it. The impact of the affair is told from the perspective three generations of women- Aviva, her mother and eventually her daughter. You would never think a book with such a premise could be handled with such a light touch, but Zevin inserts just the right amount of humor, coupled with reality and poignancy. It’s laugh-out-loud enjoyable, and fast paced readable.
THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW by A.J. Finn - If you’re looking for a quick, engrossing, suspenseful mystery, look no further than this highly anticipated, much talked about, best selling debut novel. When I say, “much talked about,” I mean this was getting a buzz before it hit the stands, and movie studios were vying over adaptation rights. This has a premise that is very loosely based on Hitchcock’s REAR WINDOW. In this though the main character is a woman who was once part of a loving, thriving family, is stuck in her house because of agoraphobia due to recent initially undisclosed series of events. As such, she stays inside perusing therapy chat rooms, checking out a few neighbors, but mostly the new family on the block. At the onset of the book you think it obvious and predictable, but soon enough twists ensue. This book is the very definition of “page turner.”
A SEPARATION by Katie Kitamura - Summer reads like real estate can largely be about location, location, location. This is why I include this title- for the locations of London and beach resorts in Greece. Location is a factor as well as it is a short, easy reading clocking in at just over 200 pages. The premise and feel of the book are not light and breezy. It is a somewhat intense story of intimacy and infidelity as a young woman comes to terms with her husband’s cheating ways and is determined to find him and proclaim her freedom. He is supposedly on a business trip in Greece, but seems to be m-i-a. Assuming that he is lost by design, she treks to his last known location. Her journey there is a catalyst to her own personal journey of emotions and rediscovery of priorities. While the tone of the book is somewhat distant and cold, Kitamura has distinct presence and promises to be an emerging talent to watch.
THE WEDDING by Dorothy West - Summer is always a good time to do a re-read and include a classic. With this title, you’re checking both those boxes. West was part of the historic Harlem Renaissance writers and this was her first book in forty-seven years. It also happened to have been encouraged and edited by Jackie Kennedy Onasis who worked at Random House at the time. THE WEDDING is an intimate story of family and community set in the 1950s within the predominantly middle class black district of Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard. The protagonist, Oval, is expected to marry of a “certain kind” within her community, but instead falls for a white jazz musician from New York. The ripple effects throughout her people are searing and Oval is constantly conflicted. Ultimately, we are led down the path of a society in transition and we feel the growing pains and understand the dilemma. Yes, this is a deep topic for what should be a light, seasonal read, but most of the book depicts summer at the Cape, and West’s brilliant gift for storytelling ensures the short 240 page book will be wholly engaging and quick.
FROM THE CORNER OF THE OVAL by Beck Dory-Stein - Although this time of year is generally thought of as escapism from reality (now more than ever) and not usually associated with non-fiction, but a fun memoir is definitely an acceptable exception. In 2011 when Dory-Stein was 25 and piecing together several dead-end part-time jobs, she noticed a vague posting for a random stenographer’s position in Craigslist. After missing one interview for the job and getting a reschedule, she soon found out that the job was for none other than President Obama and in the White House. Just like that, she went from diminishing finances and an uncertain future, to working full time for the Commander-in-Chief. Included in her stenographer duties were traveling extensively aboard Air Force One, with the president and press corp., attending and recording official diplomatic obligations, both domestically and abroad. Amid work was much fun and frolicing, falling in love, falling out of love and personal growth. This breezy romp of a read is something like a mix of THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA, SWEET BITTER and THE WEST WING.